Doing and efforting are very different things

How to succeed without working to hard to make an effort.

I notice that whenever I have a lot going on and care deeply about what I am doing ( like finishing the first draft of my new book, I’m almost there! wow!), I start to make an effort.

I tense my jaw, hold my pen tighter, type like I’m attacking the keyboard, talk faster, get more intense about everything, and even add a few more things to my list just to make sure I keep making an effort.

It’s taken me the better part of fifty years to understand I can succeed without efforting myself into a spasming neck and a crispy, fried heart.

Here is the distinction I’m trying to live:

Desire, care passionately, take action by saying yes and do this with the belief I can handle what life brings. I can trust myself to do the work as well as to repair mistakes and missteps. I got this, not perfectly but good enough.

Efforting is working harder than is necessary because I’m telling myself, “You can’t handle this, so better tense up, jack your nervous system up to hyper-alert, worry and scurry, and try harder.”

Then I start to wish I owned a cheese shop or I wish I was retired or I end up barely able to turn my neck all or I think “Why bother?” all because I’m trying so hard.

I’m experimenting with making less of an effort. Sometimes that looks like typing softer and sometimes it looks like a nap in the middle of a workday, but mostly it looks like gently letting go of the story that I’ll be in trouble unless I make an effort.

But mostly it looks like relaxing my shoulders, putting my hand on my heart, and spending a few moments enjoying the profound pleasure of simply being.

It looks like remembering that life wants to live through me and it doesn’t need me to tighten up or scramble around making myself crazy; it only needs to me to open, to listen, and to embrace being human.

Here is a video I made for the weekly Oasis about this very subject if you’d like more.


Here’s what one member Julie said about it, “Oooo, that was a zinger right to the heart of the matter, Jen! I’ve been struggling with feeling like I’m doing “enough” with my work, even though, if you ask me, I’ll tell you that I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished and known what I need to do next. It’s the letting go of old stories and getting close with satisfaction that is so hard right now – not the work itself!” 

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